The reason ministers are corruptible

The reason ministers are corruptible

Is it realistic to expect all government ministers to always act with integrity and to adhere to high moral and ethical standards when serving as a cabinet member?
I do not think so for one simple reason.  In Lesotho, there are no other vehicles with the potential to facilitate the acquisition of massive wealth that match (let alone exceed) the capability that having access to state power and resources provides.

The private sector for example is too small and offers only limited opportunities to secure the lifestyle and the trappings that the control of government tenders and resources provides.
A position in cabinet is therefore an extremely attractive proposition in Lesotho.

But because there is no vetting system, even those with questionable credentials can and do make it to the top.  This means individuals intent to amass personal worth and not to serve the public also make it to cabinet.

They would be foolish having been presented the opportunity to control public resources and assets not to exploit these for personal gain. How else would you suggest they achieve financial freedom? Start their own business? With what? Their teacher’s salary?  The desire and pursuit of “the good life” is a natural thing. Life is intended to be lived and to be lived well.

It is not farfetched therefore to assume that a rational person when presented keys to the treasure box, will not miss the opportunity to improve their own situation first before worrying about others.

What option do they have when their country does not offer alternative viable platforms for acquiring the finer things in life on a massive scale?
Having won the favour of the PM over other comrades in their party, why should they not make the most of the acquired state power to live comfortably and to set themselves up well for when they no longer have this power?

They may never again be presented the opportunity to have the means to pull themselves out of the life of struggle everyone works hard to change.
The point I am making is that because our economy is small and there are very high entry barriers to positions in the private sector and elsewhere with the capacity to generate resources sufficient to create “the good life”, men and women of integrity can find themselves compromised when staring at the treasure box in our current situation of weak controls and accountability.
I am simply making the point that the problem of unethical and corruptible ministers is structural i.e. stems from our situation of extremely limited resources.
And because it is structural, it will not be easy to fix.

It’s a difficult situation compounded further by the absence of even basic checks and balances in our socio-political landscape.
Take for instance the absence of clear standards and guidelines of ethical conduct for ministers. After 50 years of independence, you would expect these to be well entrenched and inviolable.
You would also expect that these are vigorously monitored and enforced.

You don’t get a sense that this happens often enough because even where there is evidence of unethical conduct by a minister, you rarely ever see any consequences e.g. imprisonment, fine, demotion, or ejection from cabinet.

I can cite examples for more reasons for my pessimism:
l    Ministers using access to non-public government information to further private interests or the interests of friends, relatives, or persons with whom they are affiliated
l    Ministers accepting gifts and not disclosing
l    Engaging in business activities with the state while still a minister
l    Abusing state assets to promote narrow and not national interests

l    Former ministers making unfair use of their prior Government position to influence Government action to benefit themselves and their cronies
When these things happen, public outcry is often subdued and there is seldom any action taken by relevant authorities against alleged improper conduct by ministers.
These are all the effects of having a small economy with limited opportunities for individuals to accumulate wealth unless connected to sources of state power or aligned with those in charge.
It’s a structural challenge that can only be solved by radical transformation of our politics and the economy.

And because this will not happen now, cabinet will continue to also include people with no desire to serve the public but people whose sole intent is to bankrupt the system for their personal enrichment.

What needs to happen to bring about this radical transformation?  I honestly do not know. If there were any easy answers, our leaders would have succeeded to create an environment where wealth for individuals is created using business resources and not public resources.

But that is unfortunately not the case. The use of state power and resources remains the preferred, easier and quicker way for wealth accumulation in Lesotho.
This needs to change so that smarts, skill, competence and hard-work become the pillars for securing “the good life”.
Perhaps I would be less pessimistic if after 50 years of self-rule, we had learned to discuss, engage and challenge our leaders’ values and intentions more closely.
Perhaps I would be less pessimistic if after 50 years, we had also learned to hold those in cabinet who tarnish the integrity of our democratic institutions accountable.
But we haven’t.  And that’s the reason individuals of questionable ethics and principles are found everywhere in society including in cabinet.

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